Iceland Pt. 4: Hofn & Skaftafell
Arriving at Höfn marked the third week into our trip, which was surreal. Without the sun going down the trip had almost felt like one long day up to that point. We were in the Southeast and headed in the direction of Reykjavik once again.
We stopped to see Petra’s Mineral Collection on the way, which cheered me up pretty fast. Petra was an Icelandic woman who spent her entire life collecting rocks. Enlisting her friends and children, she would lug massive geodes, chunks of obsidian, anything she found on her adventures back to her house. She left behind a garden and house lined with her collections for eager geology students like us to gawk at- what a way to be remembered.
The last week and a half was pretty action-packed. We kicked things off in Hofn with a open day spent packing lunches (and an alarming amount of peanut butter), walking 6km to the nearest mountains, and finding a waterfall to spend the afternoon hiking over, under, and through.
Our next adventure involved picking up our ice picks and strapping crampons onto our boots (aka lots of sharp, stabby things that no clumsy 19yr old should be allowed near), and marching onto a glacier. We trekked up and over ridges in the ice, making a path across little crevasses and streams as we walked.
Drinking handfuls of water from the icy streams flowing over the glacier and looking out across its immense, jagged surface it was eerie to think that these glaciers might not exist at all in the future. Already there has been undeniable glacial retreat in Iceland due to climate change.
Everyone made it back in one piece and the sun came out just in time for sandwiches and a post-lunch nap in the sun.
After visiting a few more glacial outlets to study moraines and another long hike (we guessed 16km round trip), we broke camp in the rain and headed for Skaftafell.
We stopped on the way to go on a tour of the Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon. After pulling on offensively bright life jackets, we watched as the driver expertly navigated huge icebergs while dinghies manically circled the boat to keep the ice chunks away.
The guide pointed out the stunning aqua blue of an iceberg that had recently flipped over before nonchalantly scooping a piece of ice out the water the size of a small child. Shuffling it from hand to hand, he told us that the lagoon we sat on was deeper than double the 74.5m Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavik- in fact it’s the deepest lake in Iceland.
He whipped out an ice pick and broke the chunk into bite-sized pieces. Balancing the cutting board on one hand, he held it out in our direction.
“The oldest thing you’ll ever eat.”
After a speedy grocery run, we managed to set up camp in time to hike the thirty minutes to Svartifoss- a waterfall flowing over awesome columnar jointed rock. My cook team was on for dinner, so I headed back to start chopping veggies and carbo-load for our hike the next day. The 15km loop we did from the campsite the next day turned out to be one of my favorite hikes of the trip (although I said that about all of them). No big surprise, as it was listed in the Lonely Planet Iceland book for its gorgeous views.
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
― André Gide